Strittmatter, R. R., Ferraro, A., Tiano, D. 2014. Behavioral management approach to facilitate use of pen-housed nonhuman primates for toxicology studies. American Association for Laboratory Animal Science [AALAS] Meeting Official Program, 539 (Abstract #PS53).
Housing laboratory primates in large pens can improve welfare by providing ample opportunity to express normal social and locomotor behaviors. This type of housing, however, can present great challenges in terms of manipulating animals for study procedures. The use of positive reinforcement training (PRT) has been used successfully to allow for cooperation with study techniques. PRT requires much time be spent on implementation of training plans tailored to each animal. However, toxicology studies typically afford minimal time for training and little opportunity to design and apply individualized training plans. In preparation for movement to a new facility, we implemented a comprehensive behavioral management program to facilitate the use of a pen setting for toxicology studies with aggressive timelines between receipt of nonhuman primates (NHPs) and initiation of study. Our first phase of preparation required training our technical staff on the basic tenants of operant conditioning and natural behaviors of cynomolgus macaques. Staff then applied those lessons by teaching NHPs to elicit behaviors on command. The second phase required that we take a behavioral management approach to both pen design and evaluation. Using knowledge of cynomolgus macaque natural behavior, we ensured the area where NHPs would be handled for study was also the most desirable in terms of structure and enrichment offered. Our last phase of planning involved receipt of animals into our pen prototype, as we defined how quarantine, general husbandry, and study procedures would occur applying some basic tenets of operant conditioning. The defined set of practices that accompany the pen design has resulted in a highly functional caging system that will facilitate efficient and safe handling of NHPs for toxicology studies.